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  • The Centennial Cure: Commemoration, Identity, and Cultural Capital in Nova Scotia during Canada's 1967 Centennial Celebrations by Meaghan Elizabeth Beaton
  • Scott Herder (bio)
Meaghan Elizabeth Beaton. The Centennial Cure: Commemoration, Identity, and Cultural Capital in Nova Scotia during Canada's 1967 Centennial Celebrations. University of Toronto Press. xii, 284. $27.95

Meaghan Elizabeth Beaton's The Centennial Cure: Commemoration, Identity, and Cultural Capital in Nova Scotia during Canada's 1967 Centennial Celebrations offers a number of important new insights to the history of the 1967 Canadian centennial. In a broad sense, the book presents a challenge to two historical narratives at once: first, Ian McKay's work on the cultivation of folk identity in Nova Scotia in The Quest of the Folk: Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia (1994) and, second, the common understanding of the centennial as a uniform, nationalist endeavour. Beaton's study examines how several Centennial Commission projects reflected a period of intense change in the province.

Following a contextualizing chapter that explains how the logistics of funding processes were centralized by government organization through the Centennial Commission and the Centennial Grants Program, the book turns to an examination of the Highland Games and Folk Festival, which the province's centennial commissioner initiated as both a tourism opportunity and a celebration of its cultural heritage: "After all," he suggested, "Nova Scotia is New Scotland." Still, the event itself included a great number of participants from diverse groups. Its program interestingly combined such diversity with its initial appeal to Scottish heritage, which involved a number of activities performed by Scottish visitors. As Beaton argues, the event was a stark contrast to the future-oriented design of Expo 67, and, planned as it was to memorialize the culture of Scottish settlers, it had little to do with Canadian nationalist celebrations. The confrontation between provincial heritage and [End Page 157] shifting social landscapes is further explored in the next chapter about the development of the Cape Breton Miners' Museum in Glace Bay. At the time, scholarly interests and museum exhibits were increasingly turning towards labour histories. The development of the museum took place under this influence; however, the commemoration it presented was difficult to accept for local residents who were still reliant upon the industry. As Beaton notes, "[t]he project's goal to 'preserve' stories of workers and their communities in a tourist attraction was, for many, tantamount to acknowledging the industry's inevitable demise. This was a troubled and unsettling memory for many." Although neither preceded the concept of a monument to coal miners, both a miners' choir and original songs were created to refine the museum's curation of a traditional aesthetic. Both the festival and the museum were characterized by bridging an artificial identification with the past to the social and economic actualities of the present.

The remaining two chapters discuss projects that were favoured for their effects on local community improvement rather than on national celebration. Originally, Halifax planners intended to build an aquarium that would increase tourism as well as provide research and education resources. However, due to the organizers' inability to complete funding and designate land, the federal funding the project had already received was instead folded into the construction of the Halifax Centennial Swimming Pool. Thus, the use of the Centennial Grants Program funding was directed towards local infrastructure to meet post-war needs for leisure and recreation programs. The final chapter describes the Community Improvement Program, which organized residents themselves to participate in a province-wide beautification effort. This program capitalized on contemporary environmental concerns by enticing citizens to perform tasks (such as planting trees and shrubbery, picking up litter, and painting building facades) that would normally be performed by state employees. The language of environmental protests was thus exploited in support of encouraging citizenship activities.

In combination, these centennial projects produced several valuable assertions about how commemoration is formulated at the intersections of federal and provincial policy, economic planning, and social interests. Instead of the "euphoria" described by others, such as popular historian Pierre Berton, the centennial projects in Nova Scotia are representative of how such undertakings were responsive to the forces of capitalism...


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pp. 157-158
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